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TikTok has a bad habit of self-diagnosis, and the recent “manic cleaning” trend is the proof. The label — which has already inspired videos with more than eight million views — shows people using their random bursts of energy to help tidy up at unprecedented speeds (or maybe it’s just the sped up camera footage). At first glance, it seems like harmless, even relatable content. But according to experts, labeling this behavior as “manic” may have some insidious side effects.
The casual misuse of the term “manic” on the internet is nothing new. We saw it with the “manic pixie dream girl” aesthetic, then again with “manic bangs“, and “manic shopping.” But these labels mainly spread misinformation, oftentimes misrepresenting what it actually means to be manic, and normalizing potentially concerning behavior. “Manic cleaning wouldn’t be manic if i didn’t skip breakfast,” one commenter wrote on TikTok. “Why can’t I get these,” another person lamented in reference to a manic cleaning episode.
To make more sense of the internet’s fascination with the word “manic,” we spoke to Aron Tendler, MD, a psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at BrainsWay. Here’s what the pros make of all the manic cleaning videos popping up on your FYP— plus the difference between a true manic episode and a healthy cleaning sesh.
What Is Mania?
It’s great when people can come together and share their experiences with a genuine mental illness or disorder. It’s not so great when others use that legitimate diagnosis to inappropriately label a TikTok trend. “The term ‘manic’ is most commonly associated with bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness: a brain disorder that causes unpredictable shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function,” Dr. Tendler says.
Those who legitimately struggle with mania “present a distinct and heightened intensity compared to the ordinary fluctuations experienced by everyone,” he explains. This heightened energy and intensity state impairs functioning, and can cause strained relationships, diminished job or school performance, arrests or hospitalizations. Beyond mood changes, Dr. Tendler says manic behavior must also include at least three of the following: inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, distractibility, increased goal directed activity or physical restlessness, and engaging in activities that are risky. Cleaning for hours on end could potentially meet this criteria for someone experiencing a true manic episode, but it’s very different from someone who gets the occasional urge to clean.
What Is Manic Cleaning?
“TikTok’s manic cleaning refers to a focused burst of goal-directed activity, specifically several hours of cleaning,” Dr. Tendler says. Unlike a true manic episode, these TikTok cleaning sessions do not seem to last days, weeks, or months. “TikTok also does not refer to a behavior that is associated with any distress or dysfunction,” Dr. Tendler says. People mostly film themselves tidying up their kitchens or organizing their rooms, likely labeling the behavior as “manic” due to their sudden increase in motivation.
One of the most telling differences between manic cleaning and actual mania, according to Dr. Tendler, is the duration. “Manic episodes last for a minimum of seven days, hypomanic episodes for four days, with symptoms for most of each of those days,” he says. Mania-related symptoms will also affect mood and cognition, not just behavior.
Why Is “Manic Cleaning” Problematic?
The manic cleaning trend might not be inherently dangerous, but equating mania with every day cleaning is concerning for a few reasons. “Trivializing the serious challenges individuals face can be harmful for those living with them,” Dr. Tendler says, adding that this can also contribute to stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental health. “It’s crucial to approach discussions about mental health with accuracy, empathy, and a focus on promoting understanding and support.” Words matter and it’s important that you proceed with caution and empathy when using them, especially those within the mental health space like “mania.”
“Without a proper understanding of the clinical implications, misusing or trivializing this term can contribute to the misunderstanding around the condition and even dissuade someone from seeking help,” Dr. Tendler says. He notes that words like “manic” are ultimately clinical terms used to describe bipolar disorder, and using them improperly could have serious consequences. That being said, if you think you may be dealing with mania, hypomania, or bipolar disorder, Dr. Tendler encourages you to seek out professional care. “You should always consult with a mental health expert if you have any concerns and avoid self-diagnosis,” he says. “The occasional motivation to clean is normal, and it is good to schedule this on a regular basis. If the cleaning bursts occur at odd hours and disrupts sleep, it becomes a matter that warrants attention.”